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Master Hands

Published 1936

From producer's synopsis: "A beautiful dramatization of how the master hands of Chevrolet craftsmen form the patterns, tools and dies, and control the huge machine that fashions the modern car."

1936 Chevrolet assembly plant, workers, foundry, steelworkers, assembly lines. Capitalist Realism.

18:27:28:29 CU disembodied hands lock in mold, top released revealing embossed metal plate with text “The Chevrolet Motor Company Presents”

18:27:44:26 Two 1930s workers along opposite edges of screen poor molten metal into mold; mold of film title “Master Hands” is filled with molten metal illuminating the text

18:28:35:17 VS workers entering foundry, factory, assembly plant shot with special effect using negative and positive film sandwiched together to give impression of workers themselves cast in a metal mold.

18:28:58:01 CU worker concentrating on his hands, pan down man working on a metal nut; CU worker, pan down to workers hands cleaning with chamois cloth precision possibly clamp of some sort; CU disembodied hands using precision instrument to cut small metal pieces; VS CU worker’s hands adjust screw on rotating bit; CU older worker wearing hat and round black frame glasses working on machine; MS man wearing vest, white shirt and tie looks into various instruments that look like microscopes; CU working taking precise measurements on machine; CU focusing on his work, pan down to disembodied hands chiseling metal piece.

18:20:23:04 CU metal piece on end of pipe with paper wrapped around it, disembodied hand enters frame, lights match on metal piece and lights paper on fire; VS man lifts gas pipe; CU flaming end of pip inserted into pipe to light foundry; CU man looks into fiery furnace; CU boiler horse power guage’s needle rises.

18:31:01:10 CU disembodied hands turn valve wheel; CU large gauge’s needle rises.

18:31:07:06 MS worker lifts large lever; low-angle spinning turbine wheel; pan from worker to CU spinning turbine wheel; CU disembodied hand slides lever forward into frame in direction of illuminated “Motor Plant” button

18:31:26:01 Low-angle shot huge factory motor, large spinning wheel and belt, huge gear; MS worker shifts lever forward; low-angle shot gauge’s needle rises

18:31:40:10 CU disembodied hand presses “Start” button above “Stop” button; low-angle shot huge spinning wheel with spokes, looks like carriage wheel, part of huge motor driving factory

18:31:50:03 MS disinterested, alienated looking working wearing protective glasses, cap and leather gloves pulling chain attached to pulley on along ceiling, pan up chain to gear opening valve;

18:31:56:23 Huge gear of factory machine turning

18:32:01:29 CU disembodied hand enters frame and pushes in “Forward” button beneath “Stop” button; low-angle shot row of wheels turning belts

18:32:10:02 CU gears of machine, MS worker leans into frame and turns on machine, gears begins to spin dangerously close to man’s head; great shot huge spinning wheel of generator, sign “Danger 4600 Volts”

18:32:25:07 CU bundle of cloth on end of metal rod lit on fire by disembodied hand; huge inferno; CU flame being sucked into hole in wall; huge metal container craned into inferno; VS workers in foundry; pouring molten metal

18:33:51:10 CU disembodied hand enters frame and pulls lever; dirt poured over mold, CU disembodied workers gloved hands spread dark dirt over mold, clamp lowered over mold then released, shiny metal pieces appear in dirt

18:34:29:28 CU disembodied hands throw dark earth, dirt, into mold; CU disembodied hands spreading sand into cylinder mold, sand casting molds for cylinder heads.

18:35:22:03 CU two sets of disembodied hands holding nails or pins rapidly poking holes in sand mold for valve parts, frame placed over mold, dark dirt spread over top of sand mold

18:36:44:12 Great shot CU disembodied hands put on leather work gloves

18:36:51:10 Work watches as molten metal is poured.

18:37:21:22 Worker turns wheel pouring metal into engine mold; VS steaming engines passing through factory hung by hooks for cooling, engines covered in dirt

18:38:36:25 CU disembodied workers hands hold metal piece up to grinding wheel, sparks fly

18:38:42:29 MS worker wearing protective gloves and glasses using grinder on engine mold; engine mold
Blowing out the Molding Sand [elements air blowers wind conveyor belts]

18:39:09:25 CU worker’s gloved hands holding long forceps, molten metal removed from furnace and put in under giant hammers to forge the steel; shaped under 6 ton blows VS CU workers faces wearing glasses spectacles eye protection violent hammering pounding bright molten metal crankshafts; crank shaft multiples hung from hook conveyor line; worker inspects and balancing crank shaft; CU crank shafts moving past camera on conveyor line, wipes to CU worker’s hand

18:40:56:26 machining and polishing cylinders; workers on assembly line checking cylinder size [measurement gauges gauging precision measuring cylinder blocks engine blocks tolerances];
Inspecting Pistons [measurement gauges gauging precision inspection tolerances]; worker doing final piston inspection; line of workers checking cylinder heads

18:41:47:20 Beginning of engine assembly line; CU engine bodies moving down conveyor, disembodied worker’s hands installing cylinder heads; MS worker chewing gum adjusting the valves on the engines

18:42:50:00 CU worker with ear to listening instrument connected to engine; [Tuning the Engine listening devices ear trumpets hearing aids stethoscope sounds valves painting]

18:43:12:02 CU welder lowers protective mask by nodding head; CU light from welding reflected off of welder’s protective mask

Welding Knee Action Cases [welders helmets eye protection]; assembling knee action parts; grinding steel for the springs [grinders elements water cooling coolants]; CU coiling white hot steel [springs helix helices bending coils grinding sparks]; worker checking the strength of the spring [scales gauging gauges strength strain Toledo]

18:44:19:12 VS workers on assembly line, assembling the knee Action Unit [suspension rotating turning rotation wrenches tightening], worker installs coil spring, low-angle shot worker uses power dirll; testing knee action; disembodied arms of worker checking the water-tight seal, submerging unit in water [testing elements water wetness submersion rocking]

18:45:07:10 CU disembodied worker’s arms shaping brake drums; CU worker rubbing soapy liquid on sheet metal, pan down to sheet metal on conveyor being stamped out under large stamping press; riveting brake lining [asbestos rivets]; assuring brake accuracy [asbestos brake linings]; assembling the brake shoes [rivets riveting]; adjusting the hydraulic control [brake shoes]

18:46:59:13 Forming wheel Rrims [sheet steel metal rolling shaping grinding sparks]; welding the rims
shaping the rims [pressure metal]; stamping out the wheels [metal stamping steel sheets presses]
shaping the steel spokes [metal stamping presses 600 Tons wheel assembly]

18:49:13:14 VS Building the frame [hammering hammers]; shaping the side members; riveting frame braces; dropping in the cross members, VS great assembly line footage [assembly line drama]; a foundation of steel girders [alienation assembly lines boredom riveting danger occupational health and safety]; and the Y-K frame is finished

18:50:57:05 CU disembodied worker’s hand resting on lever; LS man kneeling just above machine forming frames, supervising, man’s hand rests on lever, pan down to VS machine forming car chassis, Y-K frame, VS great assembly line shots, rhythmic back and forth of machine in high-angle shots

18:51:57:22 CU man enters frame and places hand on lever; great high-angle shot assembly line two to one ratio man to machine, machines weaving in and out between workers, car chassis on conveyor assembly line; CU clenched fist over lever

18:52:18:27 CU car chassis moves on conveyor line toward camera, workers on assembly line, worker holding hammer over his shoulder, automatic machine slide forward and back to possibly rivet chassis, machine looks like an eagle sweeping into chassis with its sharp beak; VS workers insert bolt into empty slot in chassis frame, automated machine sweeps into frame and rivets; VS workers lower engine suspended from hook into car frame

18:53:51:14 Huge sheet metal press pressing out the fenders; VS high-angle shot workers in factory receiving fenders and one-piece turret tops; VS sheet metal press pressing out one-piece turret tops; workers remove shaped metal pieces from press

18:54:28:03 CU disembodied hand in leather gloves runs over smooth metal surface inspecting the finished surface; metal is fetishized and eroticized.

18:54:32:07 CU profile of worker wearing hat and glasses; CU disembodied worker’s hands, one hand in leather glove, puts metal piece between electric punch, sparks fly

18:54:39:25 High-angle pan over workers sliding removing one-piece turret tops from giant metal presses

18:55:06:19 Workers removing one-piece turret tops from huge metal presses and stacking them on top of each other; VS trimming the metal turret tops; one-piece turret top removed from presses and slid down line; CU disembodied arms reaching into frame inspecting turret top of car, marking blemishes on surface with chalk

18:56:04:18 Worker carries front grill of car to assembly man, another worker helps man lift grill onto car frame; VS final assembly, installation of radiators, fenders, body of car craned into chassis; worker installs wheels; finishing touches, workers inspect fully assembled 1930s cars on assembly line; CU pan down freshly assembled cars on assembly line, car interiors, shot stops at steering wheel in car, dissolves into shot of man holding steering wheel in car, puts car into gear and drives off through suburban neighborhood past house with Spanish style red shingle roof and onto one lane tree-lined road, car drives away from camera off into distance.

Producer Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor Chevrolet Motor Company
Audio/Visual sound, color


Produced by Jam Handy Organization for Chevrolet Motor Company, 1936. 33 min., 35mm. Photography: Gordon Avil. Orchestral Score: Samuel Benavie. Rendition: Detroit Philharmonic Orchestra. Film Editing: Vincent Herman. Completed February 5, 1936. Filmed at the Chevrolet plants in Flint, Michigan.


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